Agents have rallied round Thomas Cook following the death of two clients in Hurghada – one of whom was a Cook agent.
Susan Cooper, 63, of the Chancery Walk store in Burnley, and her husband John Cooper, 69, died within hours of each other last Tuesday while on holiday at the Steigenberger Aqua Magic hotel.
Postmortem tests on the couple are currently under way. Cook had around 300 customers in the resort at the time and offered them alternative hotels within Hurghada or the option to return home.
However, TTG found the hotel was still bookable on Steigenberger’s website on Tuesday (August 28).
Cook said in its latest update it had no evidence to support media reports the deaths may have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Brett Paterson, a homeworker who trades as The Secret Travel Agent, praised Cook’s response.
“Thomas Cook has not released too much information because they don’t know what the situation is, even though the public is lobbying for an answer. They are quite rightly holding their ground,” he said.
Paterson, who has worked in Hurghada, criticised media scaremongering about Egypt in general. He said he had lost a Hurghada booking from an elderly client following the Coopers’ deaths, but also noted: “Eight of my bookings in the last 10 days have been to Egypt, mainly to Hurghada.”
Mair Jones, co-owner of Carmarthen- based Bordessa Holidays, told TTG her parents had holidayed in the hotel a fortnight ago – and said she herself would go back there.
“The Aqua Magic is my favourite hotel. I recommend it to all my customers. We’ve sent a lot of clients there over the last two or three years. My own parents came back from a holiday there just two weeks ago and said it was their best holiday.
“I’m devastated for the [Cooper] family but I can’t fault the food from my stay. I would definitely go there again... I would book tomorrow.”
Kilwinning-based Thorne Travel managing director Shona Thorne said there had been no backlash against Cook: “Nothing at all, in fact, I took three bookings this morning. If anything, the feedback has been quite positive because they have taken decisive action.”
Test results on the fatalities are not expected until at least the weekend. A leading health and safety expert, who asked not to be named, said: “Everything points towards carbon monoxide poisoning, but I can’t believe Cook would find themselves in that situation again.”
He also cast doubt on two other causes: “Legionella (bacteria commonly transmitted through showers or air conditioning) does not work that fast. And is something food-related going to kill a couple very quickly and no one else? Also, if you are poisoned, there would be evidence in the room, and there is none.”
The expert said the Egyptian authorities had “not helped themselves” in their initial response, after claiming Susan Cooper “had died of grief” hours after her husband.
Red Sea governor Ahmed Abdallah told local media Cook had “overreacted” in evacuating the hotel and said its clinic had seen only 23 guests in the past week out of 1,995.
These were routine cases of over-exposure to sun and other minor ailments, he said. However,
Ahmed has since admitted on the region’s Facebook page that “there was a strange odour in the [Coopers’ hotel] room”.
A spokesperson for solicitors firm Bott & Co told TTG it had taken on “a few [sickness] claims over the weekend”, including one from a client who was at the hotel in April and claimed they suffered severe food poisoning.
A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with the hotel and are supporting the authorities with their investigations. The Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel was last audited by Thomas Cook in late July 2018 and received an overall score of 96%.
“We will be contacting those customers due to travel to the hotel in Hurghada in the next four weeks to offer alternative holiday options.”